Four days ago the Religious police of the Johor Islamic Religious Department arrested two women in a hotel in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
The media reported that when Religious police raided the hotel, of the women opened the door of their room while the other remained in the bathroom and she was nude. The Religious police found them with a sex toy and so arrested them for being lesbians.
These two women, both students, reckoned as the first lesbian couple arrested by the Religious police who enforce Islam in Malaysia. The women face three months in jail, six cane strokes, and a fine.
A number of gay men have been detained over the years in Malaysia. Former deputy prime minister and current opposition leader Dato’ Seri Anwar Bin Ibrahim has been arrested twice on sodomy charges, which he maintains as trumped up.
In 1982, Anwar Ibrahim, then 35-years-old, was instrumental in founding the liberal youth Islamic organisation, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM). He was elected as the second president of ABIM. However, he shocked his supporters by joining the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the major party in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, led by Mahathir bin Mohamad, who had become prime minister of Malaysia in 1981.
Anwar Ibrahim, served as the Finance Minister of Malaysia in 1991. It was often alluded in public that he had a “son-father” relationship with Mahathir, and was expected to succeed him as prime minister. In early 1997, Mahathir appointed Anwar Ibrahim as acting Prime Minister while he took a two-month holiday.
Towards the end of the 1990s, Anwar Ibrahim’s relationship with Mahathir began to deteriorate due to their conflicting views on governance. In Mahathir’s absence, Anwar had independently taken radical steps to change the country’s governing mechanisms which were in direct conflict with Mahathir’s policies.
In 1998, Newsweek magazine named Anwar Ibrahim the “Asian of the Year”. However, Khalid Jafri, an ex-editor of the government-controlled newspaper Utusan Malaysia and former editor-in-chief of a failed magazine, Harian National circulated a book titled “50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Tidak Boleh Jadi PM” (50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Become PM) containing graphic allegations of homosexuality, as well as accusations of corruption, against Anwar.
Anwar Ibrahim obtained a court injunction to prevent further distribution of the book and filed a lawsuit against the author for defamation. Police charged the author of the book with publishing of false news with malicious intent. The police were then instructed to investigate the veracity of the claims.
In 1998, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sacked Anwar Ibrahim from his post and jailed him for corruption and sodomy.
Latheefa Koya, a member of Anwar’s legal defence team, said the charges against Anwar Ibrahim were politically motivated. She said:
“He had an image of someone of high moral standing, who’s Islamic in his background. So the best way to destroy that is trump up a charge with sexual connotation in it. And if you can’t get that person to be seen with women, then you might as well deal with sodomy.”
Recently, Flocations, a travel startup in Singapore, ran some tests on targeting women with Facebook ads.
Their findings were totally unexpected. They found that in Singapore and Malaysia, the number of “women interested in women” far outnumber those who are “interested in men”.
In 2007, Singapore modified their sodomy laws, expressed in Section 377a of the island-state’s Penal Code, to exclude heterosexuals who perform consensual oral and anal sex, and India repealed its own Section 377 on July 2, 2009.
- Malaysian Islamic Police Raid Hotel Room, Arrest Two Women For Being Lesbians… (weaselzippers.us)
- Anwar Ibrahim (en.wikipedia.org)
- LGBT rights in Malaysia (en.wikipedia.org)
- Rethinking Malaysia’s sodomy laws (malaysianbar.org.my)
- More lesbians than straight women in Singapore and Malaysia, says Facebook? (techinasia.com)